Harford man asks to rescind plea in killing

May 26, 2007|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

A Fallston man who pleaded guilty last month to killing a man in a dispute sparked by road rage says he has new information that could help his defense and wants to rescind his plea, according to court documents.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the death of Patrick John Walker, 23, a recent college graduate who prosecutors say was stabbed in the throat while sitting in his car at a stop sign in downtown Bel Air. It was the town's first homicide in more than 20 years.

Family and friends, who have lit candles each evening since the crime and placed pictures and mementos under a tree near the spot where Walker was found dead, plan to gather there tonight for a memorial.

Michael Razzio Simmons, 20, was arrested at the scene, his clothes stained with blood, according to a police report. Witnesses said they saw Simmons get out of the car and reach into Walker's car. When Walker got out of his vehicle, he was bleeding from a neck wound and staggering toward Simmons' car, the report said.

Simmons told police that Walker ran into his knife, but he pleaded guilty April 6 to second-degree murder and received the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

In a court motion filed April 16, Simmons contends that his then-attorney, David P. Henninger, failed to interview key witnesses and did not adequately communicate his options, meeting just three times in nine months.

Simmons believes that the witnesses - including his brother Vince Simmons, who was riding in the car with him when the incident occurred - have information that would be favorable to his defense, according to court papers.

"The defendant was unaware of the expected testimony of these witnesses at the time he agreed, under strong recommendation of Mr. Henninger, to enter a guilty plea in this case, as he had not been advised by Mr. Henninger of the substance of their expected testimony," wrote Simmons, who has hired Baltimore attorney Kenneth W. Ravenell.

Ravenell and Henninger could not be reached for comment yesterday. A hearing on the motion is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.

Henninger had sought to move the trial to another jurisdiction because of publicity and the proximity of the murder scene to the county courthouse, a couple blocks away. But the plea agreement allowed both sides to forgo a trial.

Tonight's memorial will take place at 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the Harford County Health Department. There will also be a Mass at St. Margaret Church in Bel Air at 4 p.m.


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